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I checked out A Room with a View by E.M. Forster because the title is all I want. Well, a view and to not have to worry about health insurance but A Room with a View and Health Insurance doesn’t have quite the same ring.

Apparently, dodgy construction companies all over the city are saving money on storage by simply leaving scaffolding up long after it’s in use. After a neighbor told me about an upcoming bill proposing reducing scaffolding permits from years to 5 months, we started calling and writing local officials about the scaffolding next door that was put up three years ago and hasn’t been active in 18 months. Its a few weeks later and the scaffolding was taken down this week. We can actually see out our window to… a luxury building. The opposite of inspiring, but if I hang half my body out the window I can see the Statue of Liberty and she’s a looker. I’m counting this as our first victory of the year. Score!

A Room with a View is more than just an evocative title. The novel is smart and amusing with the kind of knowing tone you want to wrap up in. Why can’t every book be this good?

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This was my first time reading A Room with a View. I know. Naughty, naughty. It’s a character driven story with a straightforward plot and grogeous prose. So many sentences to stop and admire as if they’re paintings on a museum wall to be discussed in the cafe over tea with a hard clump of sugar.

Lucy Honeychurch is a young woman on holiday with her cousin/chaperon Charlotte. They’re staying at an inn in Florence called the Pension Bertolini and Charlotte is not happy that their rooms overlook the courtyard. Hearing this complaint, an older man named Mr. Emmerson, traveling with his son George, offers up their rooms with lovely views. He says men don’t care for views as women do. After much feigned reluctance and protests of impropriety, Charlotte accepts the rooms.

Side note: Perhaps Mr. Emmerson’s view on views isn’t shared by all men, but it does apply to my boyfriend and dad. I’ve dragged them up steep endless staircases for rooftop views, up rocky seaside cliffs, on long hikes to clearings surrounded by mountains – places I could enjoy being for hours and hours. Both of them react to views in the same way. They take one look and maybe nod before saying something like Okay. Seen it. Now what? If I’d only read this book sooner, I would’ve learned to appreciate views alone.

The hemming and hawing over the rooms tells you everything you need to know about the stuffy bubble Charlotte and most of their fellow travelers choose to inhabit no matter where they are. Lucy begins to sense the narrowness of these ways once they’re held in contrast to the Emmersons, who are too intelligent to bother with verbose Victorianisms and stuffy rules of civility.

Lucy’s inner world expands when she’s with the Emmersons and contracts when she retreats. She has the possibility to change, but struggles to reconcile the gap between her family’s expectations and what she wants. Then George Emmerson steals a kiss in a field of violets and Lucy makes a run for it. She’s a fuzzy character because she wants to change and grow but she’s a people-pleaser surrounded by people with dated views.

There is much that is immortal in this medieval lady. The dragons have gone, and so have the nights, but still she lingers in our midst, … But alas! The creature grows degenerate. In her heart also there are springing up strange desires. She too is enamored of heavy winds, and vast panoramas, and green expanses of the sea.

The second part of the book takes us to Lucy’s home in Surrey as she accepts the marriage proposal of a man she doesn’t love. The life ahead of her is bleak. Her submissiveness is that much harder to read because now she’s aware of it. In Rome, her future fiance saw her as a mystery.

A rebel she was – but not of the kind he understood – a rebel who desired, not a wider dwelling-room, but equality beside the man she loved. For Italy was offering the most priceless of all possessions – her own soul.

Once engaged, she’s a country girl he must cultivate so she may properly entertain the grandchildren of fancy people. Then the Emmerson’s move to the town and stir Lucy’s heart and mind once more. It’s a typical love story in that Forster keeps the lovers apart until … SPOILER ALERT … the very end.

The experience of reading this book reminded me of Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle. It’s full of yearning and the stakes are high if Lucy continues to deny what she wants. Every character is fully developed and the vast physical spaces offer necessary breathing room whenever Lucy’s oppressive upbringing starts closing in.

She disliked confidences, for they might lead to self-knowledge and to that king of terrors – Light.

I’m so glad I finally read this book.

 

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